New hope for three-legged horse

  • Barnaby, the first equine in the UK to be fitted with an artificial limb, is enjoying a new lease of life

    Barnaby, a 16.2hh Appaloosa gelding, once condemned to die by vets after losing a foreleg, has been given a new lease of life thanks to the pioneering efforts of prosthesis specialists John Young and Bob Watts.

    Unlike cats and dogs, horses are unable to manage on three legs because they weigh around half a ton and have a much larger frame to support.

    His owner Jan Munns, 53, from Irchester, Northampton, took up riding six years ago and bought Barnaby a year later.

    In 1998 he began suffering from lameness and was incorrectly diagnosed withan annular ligament problem. After further tests, vets identified the problem as navicular and Barnaby was successfully de-nerved.

    The gelding then suffered an abscess in his hoof, but because he had been de-nerved it was not detected immediately.

    Eventually he was diagnosed with thrombosis of the arteries in his right fetlock and an angiogram proved there was insufficient blood supply to the hoof.

    Lower leg amputated

    In May last year Barnaby underwent surgery to remove 9ins of leg, from the hoof to just above the fetlock.

    Although vets recommended Barnaby be put down, Jan was determined to do whatever it took to get her beloved horse back on his feet.

    Vets agreed to amputate on the agreement that if Barnaby’s quality of life deteriorated he would be humanely destroyed.

    Talking about her decision to proceed with surgery Jan said: “I couldn’t see a problem because apart from his foot, Barnaby is perfectly healthy and there was no way I was going to give up on him.”

    Following surgery, 12-year-old Barnaby was fitted with his first prosthesis which consisted of a plaster cast and metal bar. Jan then contacted prosthesis specialist John Young from Northamptonshire hospital who made him three prosthetics.

    After reading an article on flexi prosthetics, Jan contacted orthopaedic consultant Bob Watts, from Ringwood, Hants, (the man responsible for helping Paul Mc Cartney’s fiancee Heather Mills and victims of the Omagh bombing), who agreed to try and fit an artificial limb to the horse.

    Mr Watts designed a carbon fibre Flex-Foot that consists of a 9ins limb pinned to the foot and a flexible hoof.

    Barnaby has been at Avonvale veterinary practise in Ratley, Warwicks, since April last year.

    Each day he has his stump cleaned and any pressure sores treated, before the prosthetic is fitted over the top of aspecial sock called a “liner”.

    So far, the procedure has cost Jan, an ambulance driver, £20,000 and she has used her Northamptonshire home as security against loans to pay for Barnaby’s treatment. She is now hoping that it won’t belong before Barnaby can come home for good.

    I visit Barnaby at the vets four or five times a week, I’ve already blown up one car on the 100-mile round trip and the one I’m driving at the moment has already got 296,000 miles on the clock.

    “At the moment, Barnaby goes out every day and enjoys a buck and a kick, he is enjoying being a horse and doing all the things horses like to do!”

    Read more usual news stories: